Now that the importance of microbes to our health is no longer disputed, it is important to consider just how different activities individuals engage in can affect their microbial health. A huge topic of interest currently is the microbial health of the gut, and what factors influence it. The purpose of this weeks post will be to brainstorm some behaviors that could have an influence on gut microflora, and whether that influence is positive, negative, or neutral.
One example of a behavior that could influence gut microflora is consumption of water. Water is a necessity for us, and most likely also for our microflora. People are constantly told to drink more water as it has been proven to be beneficial in a plethora of ways, so why not also for gut health? Although it is possible that too much water could have a negative influence on gut health, it is likely that that amount of water would be too large for a person to consume. Just like we require water to conduct our normal metabolic processes, bacteria do as well, and providing them with it is likely beneficial for us, as then they can conduct their natural processes that aid in the mutualism between us.
Another example of a gut microflora influencing behavior is anal sex. Assuming that the gut is defined as the entirety of the intestinal tract and stomach, the portion of the gut involve in anal sex would be prone to exposure of foreign bacteria. This bacteria would likely pose a risk to microbial gut health as it is not a bacteria that is naturally occurring in the gut, and could even pose some pathogenic risk. However, one could also argue that anal sex could actually be beneficial microbially. By inoculating the gut with foreign bacteria, you are increasing the diversity of the gut microflora. As long as there are no pathogenic bacteria present, this could benefit the gut microflora.
My final example of a gut microflora influencing behavior is diet. This behavior in terms of gut microbial health has been vastly studied, and it has been well established that there is a strong link between the two. In class, we discussed how the use of nutritional changes has aided in the battle against Chron’s disease. Countless other studies have sought to determine the link between specific compounds present in the diet and specific gut microbes. Diet is a behavior that can influence gut microbial health in positive, negative, and neutral ways. Some foods will have no effect on gut microbial health, while others can change your microflora composition for better or worse. For example, the consumption of a certain type of food that is not normally consumed often could be linked to an increase in the concentration of a certain gut microbe. This increase in this particular microbe’s concentration would increase the concentration of any metabolic byproducts that this microbe produces. Although when the concentration of these byproducts is normal it doesn’t affect you, when the concentration is much higher than normal it may have detrimental side effects.
In conclusion, there are many ways that our gut microflora can be altered. It is important that science established what behaviors result in positive, negative, and neutral outcomes regarding our gut microflora.